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"Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great."

~Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

He unpacks while he waits. Unwinds the bubble wrap from a few knickknacks he himself wrapped and boxed six weeks ago. The delicate little bird on rocker legs, a silver paperweight in the shape of an asterisk, the parade of elephants that sat on her desk at the precinct for five years. Castle looks around the room, thumb stroking along the curve of the lead elephant's trunk. She really should have let him hire someone to unpack all of this for her.

He wishes he had insisted on it because he can't feel her here. Standing in a sea of half-unpacked boxes, her possessions surrounding him, and still he can't feel her. Can't feel the warmth of her, the comfort of her presence. He recognizes her things, can identify this as her home, but it's nothing more than a hint, a tease.

It's not enough.

Not after six weeks.

They've done everything they can to stay in touch, to stay connected, but rushed phone calls and late night Skyping can't bridge the distance. Can't erase the 200 miles between New York and DC. The three thousand between east coast and west.

He's still adjusting to it. To waking up alone, the other side of the bed cold, the shower silent and dry, her half of the closet too close to empty. He still steps over the spot in the middle of the bedroom where she always kicked off her heels, still keeps her favorite mug next to coffee pot. Temptation Lane episodes he knows she'll never watch pile up on the DVR and the glossy covers of magazines she'll never read stare back at him from the coffee table. They never officially lived together but after a year she's left a mark on his home, on him.

The bed doesn't smell like her anymore.

He realized it that afternoon, her I love you still playing in his mind as he pulled his suitcase into the bedroom to unpack. The comforter gave under his weight, a stale puff of air smelling of dryer sheets and his own cologne floating up to meet him. His ribs still ache from the painful kick of his heart, the tight pull of his lungs as he searched in vain for even the tiniest suggestion of Kate.

His plane took off two hours later.

The sound of a key scraping in the door paralyses him, locking him in place. He knows he shouldn't just stand in the deep shadows of her apartment, staring at the silhouette of her high ponytail and slumped shoulders as she dumps a file and her keys on the counter but he can't move. He can't do anything but look at her.

A burning in his chest forces him to let go of the breath he hadn't even realized he was holding, to suck in his first lungful of her in over a month. The roots at his ankles snap when she moves further into the apartment, the darkness swallowing her whole. He lurches forward, stumbling over his own left foot in his haste, the need to see her pushing him forward.

She has him in her sights before he even realizes that she reached for her gun.

"Whoa, can you at least finish taking that off before you shoot me?"

"Cast- Castle," Kate stutters, her ponytail still swinging against the back of her half-open shirt. "What are you doing here?"

"I know I promised to respect your job," he says, his feet carrying him closer to her without instruction, "but I couldn't go another week without seeing you."

The smile that lights up her eyes when she puts her gun in the sink and tells him he shouldn't have come makes his heart skip and palms itch.

"So you want me to leave?"

"Oh, immediately."

She hits him with a force that knocks him off balance, lifting him up on his toes as her tongue slides over his. Castle can't stop the groan that rumbles in his throat, doesn't even try. Kate answers with her own unchecked moan, her hands sliding over his shoulders and back, pulling him closer. Her leg comes up to his waist on a whispered Oh, God and he wraps a hand around her thigh, jerking her up against him.

Kate's hands move for his belt and he groans, turning them on the spot. Snaking a hand between them, he unfastens her slacks and pushes them down over her hips until they slide to the floor and pool at her feet. Hands wrapped around the backs of her thighs, Castle lifts her onto the edge of the sink. Her ankles hook around his calves as she pops open the buttons on his fly, thin fingers slipping inside before he can even suck in a breath.

Castle spits out her name, the cool porcelain of the sink burning through the front of his jeans as he thrusts against her seeking hand, his own fingers working at the buttons of her shirt. Slipping the last three discs free, he yanks the shirt off her shoulders, the fabric catching at her elbows and pulling taut across her back as he tears his mouth from hers and sucks at the ridge of her collarbone.

"God, I've missed you," she whispers, one hand in his hair and the other shoved down the front of his drooping jeans. She bites his ear, tugging hard as she growls. "So fucking much."

Castle slides a hand down her stomach, tugging aside the damp crotch of her underwear and slicking over her with two fingers. "I can tell."

"Don't be smu-" She gasps and fists her hand at the back of his head when he slips a finger into her. "Jesus, Castle," she swears, eyes rolling back.

Her hand goes slack inside his boxers and he grins, dragging his smile down the slope of her neck and palming her breast with his free hand. Kate rocks against him, her abs tense and chest heaving. A moan for more bounces off the tiles and he slides in a second finger, swallowing her cry with the open press of his mouth. They breathe into each other as she breaks, her back bowing and legs clamping almost painfully around his waist.

Kate never stops moving, hips still rolling as her hand comes back to life between his legs, sliding up and down, pulling him closer. "Now," she husks, the low rasp of her voice making his stomach flip. "I need you now."

"Not here," he says, trying to pull away, unable to break free from the vise of her legs.

"Yes. Here. Now."

"Your gun is in the sink, Kate. I think a gunshot wound would put a serious damper on this amazing bout of reunion sex we're in the middle of."

"Then move me to the damn wall," she growls, twisting her arm around his neck and pulling herself up against his chest.

Castle wraps an arm around her waist and takes her mouth in a brutal kiss, biting on her bottom lips as he turns them around and slams her up against the open door. Kate grunts and digs her fingers into his shoulder, her head bouncing off the wood.

"Now," she hisses, tugging him out of his pants and rolling her hips. "Please, Castle."

He pushes as she sinks down and they both groan. Kate's heels dig into the backs of his thighs as he thrusts into her, her hands roaming over his back and shoulders, still trying to pull him closer. Reaching up, Castle wraps her ponytail around his hand and yanks, pulling her head to the side and exposing the long line of her neck.

"Yes," she moans when he presses his teeth into the thin skin there, sucking hard on the thumping button of her pulse. "God, yes."

His mouth slides down until the fine links of her necklace abrade his tongue. Untangling his hand from her hair, Castle skims his fingers over her chest, hooking the tip of his pinky finger through her engagement ring, the platinum band carrying the warmth of her skin. Hand resting in the valley of her breasts, he watches her face as she moves against him.

"I love you," Castle says, pressing his palm against her scar. "I love you, Kate."

Her fingers skim up the back of his neck and into his hair as she leans forward, resting her forehead against his. "Love you, too," she hiccups, her chest stuttering as her hips falter. "So much."

Castle slips his arm from her waist to hook under her ass, holding her body high as he drives into her, the door slamming into the wall with every thrust. Kate grips his head and breathes against his mouth, her elbows pressed to his chest and knees digging into his ribs. She cries out his name and goes rigid in his arms, her nails cutting into his scalp. Castle follows her over a dozen thrusts later, grunting his release into the crook of her neck.

He holds her up against the door while they catch their breath, his hand still pressed to the pounding beat of her heart. Kate dusts soft kisses across his temples and forehead, working her way down his cheek until she reaches his mouth. She brushes her tongue over his bottom lip, soft and teasing, before pulling back to look at him.

"Welcome to DC," she says, grinning.

Castle barks out a laugh. "And what a welcome it was." Her smile softens and his heart stumbles. Lifting his hand from her chest, he reaches up and smooths his palm over the side of her head. "Missed you."

"I noticed," she says, voice shaking on a soft chuckle as she unwinds her legs and slides down his body. Tangling their fingers, she starts walking backward, pulling him along in her wake. "Maybe next time you show me, you can actually get your clothes off."

He catches her hips when they bump up against the bed, toeing off his shoes as she unbuttons his shirt. "Hey," he says, unhooking her bra as she slides his pants and boxers down over his hips, "I wasn't the one willing to risk mortal peril by having sex on a sink with a loaded gun rolling around in it."

"It wasn't rolling around." Kate rolls her eyes, slipping off her underwear and pulling back the sheets. "And the safety was on. It was fine." She climbs onto the bed and holds out a hand for him, wiggling her fingers. "Come on."

Castle climbs in and Kate settles against him, her body draped across his chest and nose buried in the crook of his neck. Her ring presses into his ribs as he pulls the sheet up over them, the cotton billowing out and sending a gust of fragrant air swirling. Closing his eyes, Castle runs his fingers over the curve of her shoulder and sighs.

It smells like her.


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